The Minister of Communication and Member of Parliament for Ablekuma West Constituency, Hon. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful (Mrs), has revealed that the previous NDC government paid an amount of $2.6m monthly to Afriwave and Subah for virtually no work done, stating that the current government’s contract with Kelni-GVG will save the country of Sixty Million dollars ($60m) over the five year period.
She indicated that the two institutions were not allowed to connect their systems on the platform to collect the information they needed in real time and ended up analyzing the information as well as the data that was given to them.
“Mr. Speaker, since traffic was never monitored in real-time, these companies collected the data from the same Servers as the NCA verification team and so inevitably, the monthly traffic data collated by the NCA from the network operators for free was substantially the same as the data presented by Subah and Afriwave for which the latter companies were paid approximately $2.6 million per month.
Mr. Speaker, we were in effect paying for no work done, and this was the situation the NPP government inherited. It clearly could not continue”. Hon. Ursula Owusu revealed.
She said their services were unsatisfactory that as a result, Ghana was shortchanged in relation to their services.
She disclosed that the Electronic Communications Amendment Act, 2009, Act 786, provides that 19 cents should be the minimum amount to be charged by network operators per minute for International calls terminated in Ghana, and that Section (5) of the Act specifically imposes a duty on the National Communications Authority to establish a mechanism and measures to monitor compliance with this floor price per minute of International calls.
She explained further that to give effect to the $0.19 stipulation in the Act, the National Communications Authority contracted the services of the Global Voice Group (GVG), a leading telecommunications revenue assurance service provider, in 2009, to monitor the Inbound International Traffic and to ensure that, Government of Ghana received the required tax revenues and also charged with the responsibility of managing fraud on the network to reduce the incidence of traffic bypass (SIM Box), since that also had an adverse impact on Government revenues.
According to the Communication Minister, this resulted in several law suits by the mobile network operators, citing security of their network installations and privacy concerns.
She added that their main motivation may have been their unwillingness for the government to have full visibility of their actual traffic volumes, to determine the real taxes payable on the revenues earned from them.
She further indicated that the Electronic Communications Act (Act 910), was amended to make interconnection through an Interconnect Clearinghouse (ICH) mandatory, with the Electronic Communications (Interconnect) Clearinghouse Service Regulation 2016, specifically barring any ICH from providing revenue assurance services.
Afriwave Ghana Limited was granted a license to provide Interconnect Clearinghouse Services in August 2016, with the scope of Monitoring the International Incoming Traffic and Anti-Fraud Monitoring (SIM-BOX Tracking) she added.
According to her, the introduction of Afriwave meant that, there would have been a duplication of efforts as Subah continued to provide Inbound International Traffic Monitoring Services to the NCA.
To avoid this clear duplication, She said, the NCA wrote on a number of occasions to inform Subah Infosolutions that their services were no longer required by the NCA, with Subah ignoring those letters.
Revealing that the NCA was not a party to the Subah contract.
She also stated that, the NCA complained to the Ministry that they do not currently have the capabilities and expertise of acquiring, maintaining and operating a platform of this nature that would have all networks on board, hence the need to engage Kelni-GVG to provide efficient services.
Adding that the Network Operating System itself is housed in the premises of NCA, and have worked with the company all these while for the installation of the infrastructure and technological transfer, and have gotten to the configuration of the software.
She also explained that, the NCA went on a tour of African countries operating similar facilities, interacted with those contractors there, shortlisted those operating efficiently in those countries, invited them for interactions, and that is how they ended up with the restricted tendering list of those companies which meets the specific requirements and engaged them to provide local partners to collaborate and work with them.
Reiterating that, those companies then formed a joint venture with their local partners, where Ghana through this would tap into the technological knowhow of the companies and also help local companies build their capacities to international standards.
“The Central Tender Review Committee also gave approval for the contract to be awarded to the selected vendor, Kelni-GVG Limited to build, operate and transfer.
Kelni Limited is a Ghanaian Company that entered into a Joint Venture with the Global Voice Group. The Joint Venture has been established as Kelni-GVG Limited to implement the Common Platform under a contract signed by the Minister for Communications for both Ministers as enjoined by Act 864, on 27th December 2017″. She emphasized.
The Minister further revealed that the contract will be for an initial period of Five (5) years renewable for another five years, subject to certain conditions being met and that key among these conditions are satisfactory performance by Kelni-GVG Limited, cost effectiveness of maintaining the solutions, the services provided and the capacity in terms of technical resources of Kelni-GVG Limited to continue providing the requisite services, with the Common Platform evaluated continuously to ensure that it remains fit for purpose.
She gave the fee for this transaction to be $1.49 million per month, as against the $2.6 million being paid monthly to both Subah and Afriwave by the previous government.
This $1.49 million per month, She said, is within the industry average for Platform as a Service (PaaS) contracts of this nature, with the vendors already procured and delivered equipment worth over $50m as part of the contract sum, at no extra cost to the state which represents significant cost savings to the nation.
This resulted in serious debate in the House, with the Minority Leader arguing that due diligence was not followed in the new contract, praying the Speaker to refer the matter to the Communications Committee of the House for further investigation.
The Majority Leader on his part, rubbished the call, adding that the Minority had already drawn conclusions.
The 1st Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Joseph Osei-Owusu refused to refer the matter to the Committee on the grounds that, the Minister was only supposed to brief the House, which she satisfactorily did.